Donnington Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameDonnington Castle
Alternative NamesDonington; Donyngton; Dennington; Dunnington
Historic CountryBerkshire
Modern AuthorityWest Berkshire
1974 AuthorityBerkshire
Civil ParishShaw cum Donnington

Medieval castle licensed circa 1386. Flint with stone dressings and some repairs in brick. Ruined courtyard with the remains of 6 towers. Gatehouse to east, possibly by Henry Yevele. 3 storeys. 2 circular towers at eastern corners of 4 stages with plinth and battlemented parapet. 2 square headed windows to east with moulded 4-centered arch below. Interior: Gatehall has 2 bay lierne vault with moulded ribs, cusped panels and carved bosses. (Listed Building Report)

Rectangular ward with small round angle-towers; rear projects in a 4-faced bay; large rectangular gatehouse with round towers on front. Licensed 1386. Vigorous defence in Civil War, when encircled in extensive earthworks. (King)

Richard de Abberbury received a licence from the king in 1386 to rebuild and crenellate a castle on his land at Donnington, and after this date the castle is mentioned in references to the manor. Its commanding position overlooks the crossing of two of the main north-south and east-west roads of England, but the only surviving building is the three-storey gatehouse which was added to a slightly earlier quadrangular building. The present ruined courtyard west of the gatehouse was probably a mid 14th century bailey with buildings on all sides. The curtain wall with four round corner towers and two square wall towers can be traced, but the walls now only exist to a height of a metre or less (extensively rebuilt). Most of this damage was caused during the Civil War siege of Donnington Castle, from July 1644 to April 1646, when the Parliamentarians bombarded the castle using cannons. The Royalist Colonel John Boys also altered the monument by constructing the star fort earthworks around it in 1643, when it was garrisoned. Camden described Donnington as 'a small but very neat castle, seated on the banks of a woody hill, having a fair prospect and windows in all sides very lightsome'

In 1415 the manor of Donnington was sold to Thomas Chaucer, who was probably the son of Geoffrey Chaucer, although the poet had died by this time. The castle's glory days were during the Civil War when it was garrisoned for King Charles I; after the destruction of the siege, the estate's owner John Packer abandoned the building in favour of the Elizabethan lodge which became Donnington Castle House. The gatehouse however appears to have been inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century; a small cottage was constructed inside the courtyard against the ruined northeast wall, but this was later removed. (West Berkshire HER)

The gatehouse remains complete and the external walls have been rebuilt to a height of 0.5m. The temporary Civil War works remain for the most part as scarps averaging 1.7m high. (PastScape ref. Field Investigators Comments–F1 JP 15-OCT-63)

Gatehouse Comments

Excavated in 1932.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU461691
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Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 318, 409, 451
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 83-5
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  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 5
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  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1966, Buildings of England: Berkshire p. 128
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  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1853, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 269 online copy
  • Gray, E.W. (ed)?, pre 1839, The History and Antiquities of Newbury and its Environs p. 67-72, 174
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1806, Magna Britannia Vol. 1 p. 355-7, 461-2 (history)
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  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 318
  • Macnamara, 1898, 'Historic Houses: Donnington Castle' Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 4 p. 48-60, 70-5 (history) download copy
  • Godwin, H., 1873, Archaeologia Society of Antiquaries of London Vol. 44 p. 459-79 (history)
  • J.H.J., 1797, Gentleman's Magazine p. 185

Guide Books

  • Wood, M., 1964, Donnington Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1900, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1385-89) Vol. 3 p. 156 (Licence to crenellate) online copy
  • C145/103(10-20) (Survey of 1326) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 229 No. 922 [online copy >])
  • DL44/105 (Survey of 6 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference


  • West Berkshire Museum. 2006. Heritage Guide No 2 - Donnington Castle